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Take Five With...

Take Five With Dan Dorff

By Published: October 30, 2009
As a jazz drummer, I wear my influences on my shoulder and have become more and more comfortable with the idea that referencing the sounds of other great artists (in my case Jack DeJohnette
Jack DeJohnette
Jack DeJohnette
b.1942
drums
, Art Blakey
Art Blakey
Art Blakey
1919 - 1990
drums
, Roy Haynes, Max Roach
Max Roach
Max Roach
1925 - 2007
drums
, Baby Dodds, etc.) is helpful, indeed necessary to developing my own sound. My earliest inspirations as a drummer, unlike most drummers I know were the more painterly jazz drummers, such as Jack DeJohnette or Paul Motian
Paul Motian
Paul Motian
1931 - 2011
drums
. I was obsessed with the limitless colors available to me as a drummer and saw these colors being discovered by these great drummers in the context of the Keith Jarrett Trio, Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
b.1930
sax, alto
, and Pat Metheny
Pat Metheny
Pat Metheny
b.1954
guitar
. Chick Corea's Now He Sings, Now He Sobs was like a lightning strike to me. Bill Stewart
Bill Stewart
Bill Stewart
b.1966
drums
's playing with the Pat Metheny Trio was also something of a eureka for me, then I heard Max Roach and realized who was the REAL father of that style of melodic drumming. The formidable harmonic talents of these frontmen (Metheny, Corea, etc.) was so perfectly balanced against the complementary skills their drummers shared with them that it seemed to me that this music was the greatest artistic achievement possible. Better than a Frank Lloyd Wright house, more perfect than a Calder mobile. I loved the logic of written music, and studied it from my early piano lessons, Bach minuets and two part inventions; to my later forays into the Chopin etudes and Bach's Well Tempered Clavier. Singing in choirs from a young age had a gigantic impact on me. Performing things such as Orff's Carmina Burana and the Britten War Requiem allowed me to inhabit these great musical structures in ways that I couldn't do with records.

Though these great pieces of music were incredibly inspiring in their own way the jazz trio was a place where all of these great sounds could be achieved in their own way spontaneously Though I wouldn't realize it until much later, my interest in language classes in school ran neck and neck with my love for improvised music. I was fascinated by spoken language; the sounds of words, the logic of syntax and grammar was the only thing that really interested my in school other than my musical studies. Language is something that we riff on every day, therefore it is no surprise to me now that I had such a voracious appetite for improvised music.

Road story: Your best or worst experience:

watching the tour manager bribe a Serbian border patrol officer with merch at 5 in the morning was interesting.

Favorite venue:

My favorite venues... well they've all got their charms and blemishes. Terry's Turf Club in Cincinnati has the best burgers ever made, and we couldn't play hard enough for the regulars. People came to hear us do what we do, not to hear us pander to what we think their tastes are. (a skill that has sadly become second nature to most jobbing bandleaders) That was my favorite regular venue.

I recently played a festival in Lausanne that wins the overall prize for hospitality/ sound/ audience... monitors were perfect, 12 thousand people showed up, and the aftershow meal was mindblowing.

CDs you are listening to now:

Sam Cooke - Live at the Harlem Square Club 1963

Jean Ritchie - Sings the Songs of her Kentucky Mountain Home 1952

James Brown
James Brown
James Brown
1933 - 2006
vocalist
- Say it Live and Loud

Desert Island picks:

Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
- Nefertiti

Chick Corea - Now He Sings, Now He Sobs

Toots Thielemans
Toots Thielemans
Toots Thielemans
b.1922
harmonica
- Do Not Leave Me

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

Struggling economically, thriving artistically.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?

I don't get too hung up on the word "jazz." There are many musical threads intertwining and cross pollinating these days... We shouldn't get to hung up on words and what is or isn't a certain thing... that's a job for writers and critics, not me.

What is in the near future?

Working on a trio album that will be a follow up to NOW! which I finished last year. I am also working on a Folk music project that involves members of my immediate and extended family.

By Day:

Dance Accompanist.


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